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Bagger gone but not forgotten [UPDATED]

Published 7:11am Monday, August 6, 2012 Updated 12:14pm Monday, August 6, 2012

Twelve months have passed since the death of former Fergus Falls coach Duane Baglien. Bagger, as he was affectionately referred to by players and fans, left behind a stellar liftetime as a player and coach.

This past Monday I received a phone call from Matt Pederson of Starbuck who is researching successful Minnesota basketball coaches. Baglien is a nominee for a newly-formed Minnesota Basketball Hall of Fame.

Bagger was 85 when he died Aug. 1, 2011, in the Twin Cities. He is fondly remembered by long-time Fergus Falls residents as a star baseball player, successful boys basketball coach and summer park and recreation employee.

Baglien was a member of the 1950 Fergus Falls Red Sox town team state champions. He later coached Fergus Falls to a third-place finish in the 1957 state high school boys basketball tournament.

Duane’s real claim to fame took place after he left Fergus Falls.

He led Edina High School’s boys basketball team to three consecutive state basketball titles from 1966 to 1968. Bagger’s teams won 69 straight games to set a state record.

I told Pederson that Bagger will always be remembered by Fergus Falls players and fans for his integrity, professionalism and kind spirit.

Baglien was raised in Fargo, served in the U.S. Navy, and was an athlete at the University of Minnesota where he participated in football, basketball and baseball. He taught social science and coached basketball in Winthrop and Slayton before coming to Fergus Falls in the fall of 1954.

His overall basketball coaching record, as researched by Pederson, was an impressive 294-118.

“Duane was a great teacher and adjuster on the basketball court,” said Fergus Falls retiree Gene Donley, whose senior season under Baglien was in 1955-56. “It was a privilege to play for him. We all miss him.”

Bagger’s wife, Marcella, who died in 1999, was a native of Fergus Falls as was his brother-in-law, star athlete Evie Faunce.

Baglien was an assistant to Otter football coach Norm Galloway and headed the summer youth baseball program for recreation director Oats LeGrand.

Several honors came Baglien’s way over the years. He was a charter member of the Fergus Falls Chamber of Commerce Sports Hall of Fame in 1986 and was later inducted into the Minnesota High School Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He is the central figure in a book, “Baglien’s Partisans,” reviewing the 1957 Fergus Otter basketball season that was published in 1981.

“As a coach, Duane was technically skilled, set an example of integrity and yet possessed a warmth and sense of humor with his players,” said retiree Doug Johnson who was a member of the Baglien-coached Otter boys basketball team that took third at state in 1957.

During his retired years, Baglien enjoyed golfing with family and friends and spent winters in Ft. Walton Beach, Fla. Survivors include six children, Rolf, Judy, Scott, Ross, Kevin and Barb.

After his father’s death, Rolf found a touching letter in one of Bagger’s scrapbooks. The letter came from Bob Zender, the dominant 6-8 center on the Edina championship teams.

“He wrote that my dad was more than a coach,” said Rolf. “Bob said my dad taught him how to survive in life, something he passed along to his own sons.”

Sadly, Zender died of heart failure in 2010, one year before the passing of his coach.

“Coach Baglien instilled in us hard work, team effort, pride, desire and a competitive spirit,” said Johnson. “Those values have remained with most of us well past our high school days, into our adult lives.”

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